The Future of Sustainable Business: the Blue Economy

Guest blog by Bibi Gratzer

Blue has always been my favourite colour. Maybe because I am oceanophile, maybe because blue is a colour that has both, calming and awakening properties. Maybe also because I am a marine ecologist and would change the name of our planet from Earth to Planet Ocean if I could – 73% of our world is covered by water after all. I had a dream career waiting for me, working for a large International NGO in a developing country for a couple of years. But even though I was living in the dream of others, I wasn’t satisfied with the results of the work I did. Even though I had made great efforts to protect some of the most magnificent places in the world and surely did more than most people ever do, I intuitively knew that doing better than the mainstream wasn’t good enough in the face of climate change.

During my research I came across Gunther Pauli, who had developed the idea of a “Blue Economy”. I quickly became affiliated with the concepts and felt thrilled to find such a holistic approach of changing the way we think business and do environmental protection. Even though the UN adopted Pauli’s ideas for their ocean conservation programme, the “Blue Economy” is by far not focusing on marine protection only. It is called Blue simply because it is an alternative to Green. The Green Economy hasn’t done what we have needed it to do: living organic and sustainably has become too expensive and effortful for the vast majority of people. It has not supported what we really need: a systemic change that can happen quickly, within a lifetime if possible.

The beauty of nature developed because of ever-ongoing change. While natural systems are always changing, a capitalistic economic system remains resistant to change. We have created global standards under the pretext that of cost reduction to avoid change to a maximum degree.

Bizarrely, natural ecosystems thrive on local biodiversity; standardization is of little use. This was the inspiration for the entrepreneur Gunther Pauli, who is imitating the idea of biodiversity by bundling portfolios of 200 innovations. They are currently implemented through thousands of entrepreneurs, each of whom will find their niche and their chance. He proposed his concept to the Club of Rome in 2009 and then developed the four principles of Blue Economy, which are innovation and biomimicry, diversity, and open-source.

Like Pauli and his followers, I do believe that the best way to change the world is to create a diversity of business models that are innovative, operate independently of outside funding, imitate nature in terms of eradicating the idea of waste or scarcity, and share their successes. As I am currently working for a social enterprise, where I strongly engage with the concepts of sharing economy and the economy of the commons, I believe that all of these ideas could be interlinked.

The workshop on the 2nd of July 2016 is the first step in this direction. Alexander Prinsen, who is presenting the content, is a Transition Expert, Global Consultant for Circular and Blue Economy Business Model Design, Speaker, and Writer. Since 2013 Alexander Prinsen is traveling the world, to teach the principles of the Blue Economy to universities and to consult entrepreneurs globally on how to apply those innovative ideas to their own business model.

The workshop combines Alexander’s long-term experience in the field of Blue Economy consulting with my understanding of biomimicry and the importance of nature in our society: “Biomimicry means imitating nature. Evolution has already tested over millions of years to figure out what works best. Why wouldn’t we want to use what nature could teach us? We only have to learn to see”.

Since the Blue Economy is fairly new to London, this introductory workshop is a unique opportunity for sustainable businesses throughout all industries (you would be amazed what you can do even if you are not working in sustainability). It fills me with trust and excitement to see so many people being interested in the workshop. I hope plenty of people are coming, and I wish even more that they all leave with the same sparkle that I had in my eyes when I began to see how the future of business and thus the future of economy could look like.